This is Your LIfe axed by BBC

SURPRISE has been the key ingredient for TV show This Is Your Life over the past five decades, but it was dealt a shock of its own yesterday.The BBC announced it was axing the programme, on which unsuspecting celebrities are confronted by host Michael Aspel and presented with their life story.

SURPRISE has been the key ingredient for TV show This Is Your Life over the past five decades, but it was dealt a shock of its own yesterday.

The BBC announced it was axing the programme, on which unsuspecting celebrities are confronted by host Michael Aspel and presented with their life story.

"It's never easy to bring such a long-running show as This Is Your Life to an end, but I see this more as au revoir than goodbye," said BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey.

"We want to thank everyone who has worked on making This Is Your Life a successful programme over so many years, from the presenter Michael Aspel, to the production teams and, of course, the many people who have been surprised by the red book."


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The first episode of the show was broadcast in 1955 and Eammon Andrews, the programme's long-time host, became the first victim.

He was handed the red book by the show's US creator Ralph Edwards. The first subject was going to be footballer Stanley Matthews, but news of his involvement was leaked and a ready substitute was required.

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Since then there have been more than 1,000 episodes with top guests including Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope and Dudley Moore.

Andrews went to great lengths to surprise recipients of the red book, dressing up as an airline steward to catch Shirley Bassey and as an astronaut to trick Patrick Moore.

In its heyday the show regularly pulled in 20 million viewers. But the last edition of the programme in August this year, featuring former choirboy Aled Jones, was watched by just 3.5 million.

The show was first dropped by the BBC in 1964. It moved to ITV between 1969 and 1993 before returning to the BBC in 1994 along with host Aspel, who took over the show in 1988 following Andrews's death. Aspel announced in June he was quitting the programme.

Several celebrities with strong links to the region have been given the red book treatment, including Felixstowe-raised movie star Sir John Mills (1983) and actor and former Suffolk schoolboy Nigel Havers (1992).

Actor Melvin Hayes, who was landlord of The Bull at Brantham, was honoured in 1981 and former Essex and England cricket captain Graham Gooch was a subject of the show in 1990.

Radio One DJ John Peel, 63, who lives near Stowmarket, was presented with his red book in 1995, just as he had finished presenting an edition of Top of The Pops.

"I did wonder why I had been asked to introduce Top of the Pops again after all those years, but I never thought it was anything to do with This Is Your Life," he said.

"It was a really great, actually. It was embarrassing – how could it not be? – but I didn't cry, much to everyone's astonishment. Sheila agreed to do it on the condition she didn't have to speak."

He added: "It is sad to see it go. It has been going a long time and there has been the occasional great moment.

"But it seems like it's too old fashioned to attract attention and only gets a mention these days if it's Kylie Minogue or someone with a nice bottom. I have to admit, I haven't seen the programme myself for a long time."

In the 48-year history of the show, only three stars have refused to take part after family and friends gathered in a studio.

Footballer Danny Blanchflower refused to appear in the 1950s and author Richard Gordon also backed out but was later persuaded to take part.

Two years ago, former Goodies star and wildlife enthusiast Bill Oddie turned away the This is Your Life crew – but later agreed to appear.

The show has come in for criticism over recent years after suffering a dearth in guests and was threatened with the axe in the mid-1990s.

But the makers of This Is Your Life insisted there could be more surprises in store. They followed the BBC's announcement by revealing they were in talks with rival broadcasters.

A spokesman for Talkback Thames said: "This Is Your Life is an institution and one which the British public have enjoyed for almost 50 years.

"We respect the BBC's decision not to recommission the show but are actively talking to other broadcasters about it and are hopeful it will continue to delight audiences throughout the UK."

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